So there you are, you’ve crafted out most of a plotline, the NPC’s are rolled up, and your players are coming tomorrow to kick off another campaign for adventure and glory. One problem; are you going to have them meet in the same old way they do every adventure? Maybe you have some new players who are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of starting a campaign and are thus unsure what to do. Maybe the loudmouthed perpetual rogue is complaining about always starting off by meeting strangers in an Inn.
Just like every campaign you run with him.
We present three quick Dungeons and Dragons Adventure Starts we’ve actually used here to get games up and rolling in some less-common, but fun ways. Our goal is to help you invite players into the world you’ve crafted, regardless of their experience level (or just how jaded they are!).
Lets break things into three groups, based on how you want to approach it, and feel free to adlib within these; it is your game to run afterall!
The Traditional with a Twist
So we’ve probably all started an adventure conveniently located in a tavern or inn and for reasons we don’t care about, unite with various odd ball strangers for a job that also conveniently lays itself out before us.
Now, given that, we can have a bit of fun with a gentle nudge; or a big shove. First is instead of our quest posted to a wall or told by a bartender, we let it unfold like this:
You’ve each entered the ‘Motley Lion’ this evening seeking food, drink, and a bed for the night. With the howling winds outside and the strong pelt of rain, you’re thankful for having spotted the inn at all in your travels to this crossroads south of the great wood. The hearth is warm here though, and a traveling bard plays a lilting tale while sitting on a stool by the great oak bar top. A small bowl sits next to him on the bar with a few coins in it already. Near him, an old man cautiously eats, never letting his eyes stray too far from a small box he has set on the table next to his plate.
Suddenly; a dark cloaked figure in the corner darts to the table, snagging the box and dashing into the street!, shoving past a dwarve’s outstretched arm. The old man collapses with a cry, clutching his chest and the bar tender turns to the assembled and yells;
“Well, isn’t someone going to stop him?!”
We’ve set up our party with a compelling, immediate action. What’s in the box? Who is the old man? Who is the theif? You can easily mold these into the hooks of the adventure you’re planning and quickly get the party off to a running start. Maybe the man in the claok has friends waiting to help him. Maybe he’s running to a portal they can follow him through. This is where you step in; we’re just helping you get the ball rolling.
Arrrrr! Shiver Me Timbers!
Maybe your party members are all in transit, bound by boat to some location to center your adventure on? Perhaps you just want to add some swashbuckling adventure to your party’s experience. Either way; here is where this Dungeons and Dragons Adventure Starts:
The trading vessel Intaglia sails beneath calm seas on a moonless night. In the far distance, her lookouts can spy the faint lights of the port city of Yenoa. Beneath her decks, passengers and offduty crew sleep soundly, unaware that as a fog rolls in from the south, the ship’s uneventful voyage is about to come to a dramatic turning point. Quietly on the dark night, another ship creeps closer, her sails painted black as the sky. In the mysterious fog, they are quickly upon the ship and her unsuspecting crew.
You are all roused from your sleep following a loud crash outside your cabins caused by a crewman being kicked down the narrow wooden ladder steps that link to the deck above.
Seeing your heads poked out through the door, he screams “To Arms! We’re being boarded!” before a man in dark leathers puts a shortsword through the crewman’s chest.
This immediately draws your party into action that they can’t easily avoid and which necessitates some level of cooperation in the interest of “survival”. Stats for the pirates don’t have to be high and you can typically run 2-3 fights and a “boss” out on the main deck without too much risk of killing your party off. Throw in an additional crewman or two as an assistant in the fight as well as a future NPC for the players to encounter some day if you feel the need.
lvl 1 Pirate
Fort: +1, Ref +2, Will: +0
Attack: Shortsword +3(1d6 + 1)
1d6 silver pieces
2d8 + 4 copper pieces
Maybe you’re looking for Dungeons and Dragons Adventure Starts with a more “Steam punk” feel for your campaign? Well how better than with a grand airship on its way to your starting campaign area? Like the pirate ship encounter above, the idea is that we throw our party into an immediate bit of danger and give them a solid in character reason to work together (for now) to preserve their own necks.
The Silver Comet, pride of the Cormorant Line was a sight for any to behold; not just those with the knowledge of Gnomish engineering. From bow to stern, she measures 180 feet in length, respendant in polished silver, a beacon of light above the clouds as her gnomish engines turned the great propellers behind her and the heated air filled the great air sack above the main deck. The weather has held until today with lightning and thunder visible some miles off and visibility that has dropped as the day wore on.
You all find yourselves in the ship’s galley, as clean and polished as the rest of the ship, along with most of the passengers. While a few have decided to ascend to the observation deck above the engines at the back to watch the distant storm, most prefer to watch from the safety of the galley’s port holes with a mug of ale and a shank of mutton. The passengers seem only mildly concerned with the weather. Some play cards at a nearby table where a loud dwarf regails any who will listen with a tale of his exploits while playing his hand. Most of the others gather to their social circles to talk amongst themselves.
Into this the Gnomish captain in his Cormorant Line uniform strides from the fore decks, politely engaging in some small talk or a tip of his hat to the more distinguished passengers as he politely makes his way aft of the galley and towards the engineering and crew decks.
<If asked if there’s anything the matter, the Captain professionally replies he is headed to the engineering deck to see if they might keep ahead of the weather and that there is nothing to be concerned about.>
<Allow the party to socialize/engage with the dwarf, and generally settle into the scene before proceeding. You want them to believe this is the core of the scene. This is a good time to introduce any NPC’s you want the party to start the adventure with or even some foreshadowing (no reason the eventual villain might not be on the very same flight!)>
There is a sudden and loud “BANG!” from the aft end of the ship, followed almost instantly by a deafing roar, a wave of heat, and a flash! <Anyone failing a DC-12 reflex save is knocked prone> The back of the room creaks as the far wall suddenly rips away in a rushing howl of air. Several patrons roll or stumble on the now tilted deck, falling away into the sky behind the visibly burning aft section of the ship disappearing into the clouds below.
<The explosion has slightly bent the main hatch needed to escape forward. It’s a DC-13 Strength check, which one particularly strong party member could make, but becomes more easy if they work together. NPC’s can help if they’re in danger of failing it outright. The deck is slanted and slippery with spilled food and drink, so balance checks must be made to stay upright (adjust DC as you see fit). The far end of the room is also on fire from the explosion, a fire that is consuming the room and moving towards them. Depending on how long you wish the scene to go on, you can stretch out how slowly/quickly the fire is moving and how much danger the room is in of falling away. At the conclusion of 1d4+3 turns, (pad as you need to) the galley falls away along with anyone still inside. Emphasis the danger of this happening to your players.>
Having exited the galley in just the nick of time, you all turn to see what’s left of the burned deck fall away into the storm. The bulk head before you seems to be holding, but everywhere, metal groans and creaks in agony. Clearly, you haven’t long left flying! <If NPC passengers survive, they rush to the stairs to the quarter’s deck below, one of them remarking that it’s clearly the safest place to be. From the stairs up to the bridge, they hear someone yelling for help.>
On the bridge, they find the first officer, a human trying desperately to regain control. He shouts that the control planes are jammed and that’s causing what’s left of the airship to descend towards the terrain below! Someone needs to release them from the maintenance crawl space. <Drag or shorten out the process of getting to the control planes with sudden lurches of the ship and saves to remain on one’s feet> Outside, the ground is beginning to rush up at the ship from beneath the clouds! Before you lies the Gnomish controls for the forward planes. A dead crewman lies slumped over them. <DC-14 Intelligence check to figure out their operation; again an opportunity for the party to work together. Alternatively, you can direct them to manually pulling the piston in the control plane for a DC-13 Strength check.>
With control ostensibly in the hands of the first officer, he begins tilting the ship into a less precarious dive, but cannot avert the overall crash! Everything goes dark as the party is thrown forward <assess appropriate damage>. When the party comes to, the ship is burning, people are yelling for help, and a giant tear in the side shows a muddy field where the airship has come down. The rain is pelting down pretty heavily here, but you know you cannot stay aboard the ship.
<Help the trapped NPC’s? Run to find shelter? Try to find out what brought the airship down? We leave it in your hands. Perhaps this was a terrible accident…or an attempted assassination of someone on the flight! But who? And why?>
We leave it in your capable hands, Dungeon Master, for from here out your tale begins, but you’ve got your party’s hearts racing at this point and they are (hopefully) outside of their usual comfort zone! Adventure awaits!
If you need any help fleshing out your NPC casts for these starts, there’s a fine NPC generator here.